Australian federal police officers and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade now have access to citizenship images held by the country’s border force watchdogs. It’s the first phase of our country’s biometric Face Verification Service, which will grow over time and eventually become a digital panopticon with access to visa, passport and drivers licence photographs.
The Face Verification Service complements the existing Document Verification Service available to government agencies, and will be used to cross-check documents that contain facial images that might successfully pass a DVS check by using a government-sanctioned photo from an individual with a different identity to the one suggested by the document. It’s all a bit Papers, Please.
While the first phase of the FVS uses images from citizenship applications captured by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and will be accessed by AFP and DFAT, the federal government is currently negotiating with the states and territories to gain access to their databases of past and present drivers licence images to use in an expanded FVS. At its core, the FVS will let government officials confirm through biometrics that the name on your documents matches up with your face, cross-checked against other verified documents with both your name and face.
A release from the federal minister for justice Michael Keenan MP says that the service will work to the advantage of Australia’s federal law enforcement agencies: “The FVS is not a new database, but a secure means of sharing images between existing agency systems. The ability to match a person’s photo against an image on one of their government records, to verify their identity and to share these images between agencies, will strengthen identity checking processes.” Its ostensible aim is to reduce cross-border criminal activities.
The FVS will also be built on further with a Face Identification Service (FIS) some time in 2017, which will be designed to identify “unknown persons”, rather than cross-check against a database of known citizens. It will be used for “investigations of more serious offences, with access restricted to a limited number of users in specialist areas”, according to the minister’s media release.
The government says this is part of the battle against $2.2 billion worth of identity fraud that takes place in Australia every year, with 1 in 20 Australians suffering financial loss from criminals hijacking their identities. [Attorney-General’s Department]